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NEED by Lawrence David


by Lawrence David

Pub Date: Aug. 16th, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-43433-X
Publisher: Random House

A surfeit of detail and a slow-moving plot hobble this second novel by the author of Family Values (1993). The premise is plausible and provocative: Tightly wound psychiatrist Pam Thompson discovers that her husband is having an affair with one of her clients, the suicidal Joan Dwyer, and sets out on a high-stakes quest to preserve both Dwyer and her marriage. But the need to control her emotions as well as her patient causes Thompson to mismanage the therapy, driving Dwyer ever closer to killing herself. There's plenty of room for intrigue as Pam and husband Dennis Perry alternately try to wound each other and to resurrect their relationship, while the guileless Dwyer serves as their field of battle. But David's over-rationalized schema leaves little room for the sort of surprises that would make it all fun. In all-too-appropriate keeping with the endlessly speculative nature of Thompson's psychiatric practice, much of the action is anticipated before it takes place. Rather than offering readers opportunities to make judgments or connections, David allows them only to work through a welter of agonized reflection and rationalization by all three characters. The author is conversant enough with the therapeutic process, but his workmanlike prose lacks urgency or insight, and what sex there is adds little heat to the proceedings. Excessive amounts of minutia about the characters' lives—TV shows, brand names, gourmet food—seem to be intended as cultural criticism, but such descriptions muffle the narrative's interesting turns (of which there are several). Much of the best action comes too late, after the reader's patience has worn thin. Some sharp-eyed producer will purchase movie rights to Need, hone it to essentials, inject a good deal more eroticism, and create a fine thriller; the book itself offers too few fireworks. (Author tour)